The Ultimate Guide to Writing ‘How To’ Articles

Siddhi Gurav October 11, 2023 5 Minutes Read
Scroll Down

‘How To’ articles are written with a very specific aim – educating your target audience about a particular topic and subtly promoting your services/product through the content. You can’t just randomly pick a topic and start writing what comes to your mind.

You need to conduct research that will provide actionable insights on the topic. There’s also the outline – it needs to be easily scrollable but engaging at the same time. We’ll cover all these aspects individually in the coming sections, thus giving you the ultimate rulebook for writing ‘How To’ articles.

Let’s start with the pre-writing process.

Do this before starting the actual writing

Before you start writing the article, do these four things.

  • Do a quick Google Search of the target keyword:

    Check whether the top results show exactly what you were aiming to find.

  • Check out the top 5 blogs that are ranking for that keyword:

    Determine if they were successfully able to solve the ‘How To’ query.

  • Analyze their writing style and structure:

    See how they have formatted their articles and brainstorm ways to write unique content and design better structure than them.

  • Identify gaps in their content which you can fill up in yours.

    If you feel a particular point is lacking or is poorly explained in the top articles, try to explain it better in yours.

Once you have got this covered, move on to outlining your content.

Importance of a structured outline

Understand this – ‘How To’ articles not only make your customers aware of your product but also give them an idea about how they can use it most efficiently. Now, what happens in 90% of the cases is that the answer to your ‘How To’ question is hardly two to three lines. So how are you supposed to write a 1000-word article when your answer will mostly get wrapped up in 100 words?

That is where you have to strategically devise the outline of the article. Place the content in a way that the reader will feel that this particular article is giving real value in addition to the direct answer to the question.

Common mistakes writers make in ‘How To’ articles

Now, in my years of experience, I have written hundreds of ‘How To’ articles and reviewed thousands of them. There’s one common mistake I have seen most writers make – they try to include a lot of fluff to make up for the word count. Some even start the article by straying from the main topic. They put the actual answer to the ‘How To’ question somewhere at the end of the article.

This strategy used to work in the old days when the ranking of content simply relied on SEO. If you managed to include enough relevant keywords throughout your article, it could rank easily. But now, the Google search engine guidelines have been updated. You have to provide readers with helpful content and robust SEO tactics. And writing the answer to your ‘How To’ question at the end of your article does not fit the criteria.

Readers feel like they are scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through the content without getting what they came here for. They eventually lose interest and exit your blog. So, the trick here is to answer the question immediately in the article’s first few lines. And then move on to give supporting information, facts, case studies, etc. But all of this should be done in a way that the reader will want to continue to read.

Now, let’s get down to the outline part.

Outlining the ‘How To’ articles

  • Title-H1

    First comes the title. It should be your direct ‘How To’ question and written in H1 format. Make sure you include the main keyword in your title. Wrap it under 10 to 12 words.

    1. Meta tags

      Write a meta title which is different from your main title. This should include your focus keyword. Then comes the meta description. It should be creative and engaging. Remember, this is the text your target audience will see on the Google search page. This highly impacts whether they’ll click on the article or not. So make it as interesting as possible. Keep it under 155 characters and include at least one primary keyword and one secondary keyword naturally into the text.

    2. Introduction-Normal Text

      Next comes the Introduction.

      • It should be short and crisp but engaging at the same time.
      • Simply write it in 4-5 lines.
      • Talk directly about your main topic without giving the actual answer.
      • Don’t beat around the bush; just come to the point.
      • You can include statistics to capture your reader’s attention. But make sure you supply the primary source of the data.
    3. Direct answer-Normal Text-Bold

      The second paragraph should be a direct and short answer to the title. Include it naturally in the text. It should be under 350 characters. Use a word counter tool to check your character number.

  • First Heading-H2

    From here on, you start answering your main question in more detail. The first H2 should be dedicated to defining a particular term from your title. The further H2s should include a detailed explanation of your direct answer. You should add facts that lead to your answer, steps (if a process is included), any supporting information to your answer, etc. Put the most important parts under H2s and secondary information under H3s.

    Create headings and subheadings (H2 to H6) as and when required. But make sure you don’t overdo it. There should be at least 2 short paragraphs under each subheading. Keep the H2s in balance by alternatively using the question format and statement format. Don’t include all questions or all statements.

    Next comes the actual text.

    • Keep your paragraphs short of 3-4 lines.
    • Keep the sentences short, under 20 words or less.
    • Don’t stuff keywords; use them naturally.
    • Write in a tone that shows your expert advice. It should feel like you have experienced the problem yourself, and this text is a way of you saying what worked for you.

    Don’t forget to format your text. The entire blog should be more than just paragraphs. Use a mixture of bullet points, numbered lists, tables, graphs, etc. whenever necessary. This hooks the reader’s attention and keeps them on your page longer.

    You can continue to add H2s to H4s as done below.

    1. First Subheading-H3

    2. Second Subheading-H3

  • Second Heading-H2

    1. Third Subheading-H3

    2. First Sub-subheading-H4

  • Third Heading-H2

    1. Fourth Subheading-H3

    2. Fifth Subheading-H3

Conclusion-H2

Finally comes the conclusion. This must include a CTA. Make it appealing so that the reader will be compelled to click. Don’t forget your keywords and a relevant takeaway message. Don’t just summarize the article in the conclusion. Provide some real value, too.

Siddhi Gurav

Freelance Content Writer | Ghostwriter | Bringing your ideas and words to life